“You’re just like them.” She pounded her fists against the air.
My ex-wife was right. I’d become just like the vicious, drug dealing animals I hunted. Unknowingly, I’d taken on their persona. I think it was Elmer Fudd who said to “Catch a wabbit, you must become the wabbit.”
Of course she wasn’t my ex the entire 12 years I worked undercover drugs and violent crime. But, while busting bad guys with the DEA’s field office task force in New Orleans during the violent 1990’s, we did indeed suffer divorce.
My response at the time was as expected. I’d applied for and obtained a federal T3 (wiretap) on an organization in the Big Easy, and while busted relationships could wait, my big case couldn’t.
Over 20 years later, and an estranged relationship with my adult son, the guilt over living a double-minded life rests uneasy below the surface. Besides understanding the misguided toll of blue brotherhood versus real-world relationships, I learned that living double-minded extended far beyond undercover operations.
This is what Nietzsche warned of, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”
How do we get to the point where an occupation overwhelms your identity? You don’t have to spend 12 years undercover to experience this double-minded life dynamic. The uniform itself is a protective psyche barrier that switches off a portion of who you are for the sake of turning on who you need to be to get the job done. The problem is, you begin to dial that switch back to the previous setting less and less.
Natural Born Bourne
While we like to imagine so, we weren’t all born natural badass killers in desert camo diapers and a bottle full of whiskey. For those of us who are not Jason Bourne, and actually had to attend training to perfect the craft, the first thing I was taught to ensure success and survival as an undercover agent was how to lie (occupational truth manipulation.)
Lying in an undercover or investigative capacity may have come easy, but it also comes at a price. I’m not talking about falsifying reports or fudging on the testimony. This fabrication is about the personal price we pay for stepping through the vastly different thresholds of fraternity versus family.
Thanks to cultural assimilation, we take on the characteristics of those behaviors modeled. This behavior begins encroaching upon our personal life, as the tug toward brotherhood becomes more demanding of our time, attention and loyalty. Those behavioral realignments also become more pronounced as the situational intensity and risks increases.
Clinical studies show exposure to working in an environment requiring a separation of who you are in order to complete what you must do, can create a scenario very similar to Dissociative Identity Disorder.
It’s commonly referred to as multiple personalities, but to be more specific, it’s a detachment from what is reality, and an attachment to what is contrived.
With a virtual show of hands, we all know the formerly nice, harmless guys who are issued their brass balls along with their tin shields. Out of nowhere they swoop in to muck everything up because in reality, they’re still that guy. Their psyche may say they have changed, but their abilities say otherwise.
Let’s Get Biblical
The apostle, James was the first to write about the double-minded concept. He mentions it twice in the Bible. The Greek word he used was dipsuchos, which means, “a person with two minds or souls.”
This term is only written in the two verses below, but the warning against living the lie is referenced throughout God’s word.
“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8).
Losing yourself in a career, an addiction, depression or adultery is all about the separation between us and God. It’s sin-based because you’ve placed other idols above Him. An unwillingness to return life to center by de-emphasizing a job, assignment or outside influence places us in an unbalanced position.
This is where you begin to believe the lies you are living. You can tattoo up, goatee down, ball cap spun around, and the Grunt-style t-shirts get rubber-banded around your new-found, pumped up pythons, but your soul knows the difference.
Cops are trapped in the culture of silence. We liken it to a medal of honor, when in fact it’s a rotting albatross strapped around our neck. Sooner or later, our wounds have spiritual, physical and emotional consequences.
If held in darkness, these injuries manifest themselves as continuing sin, addiction, depression or suicide, to name but a few.
No matter how tough you are or how hard you struggle to avoid the truth, the double-minded contrived life you are living is like a debt owed. Your reality bills will come due. How will you pay up? Will it be through prayer, healing, confession and recovery, or with a compounding sin interest until your despair is greater than your hope?
Law enforcement is an amazing adventure. It’s like nothing else in the world, but it’s also horrifically fascinating. There is a price demanded for the ride along the blue line, but it doesn’t have to be paid by surrendering who you were before signing up.
Make yourself accountable to someone you trust. Usually civilian anchors see the shift in you before someone in your squad will. Helping you to remain singularly focused will prevent the double-minded curse the apostle James warned against. It also allows you to sustain your career with the truth and not the consequences.